Lily of the Valley : Spring Floral Note

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Spring came into my house with the bouquet of tulips, their crimson petals touched with the delicate scent of wet foliage and rain drenched earth. As I sat on the floor, caressing the satiny buds, the memories of past springs rushed forth, scattering like pearls from a broken necklace. Some were sweet, others were less so, and yet all of them were tinged with something ineffable that makes heart skip a beat. The smell of acacia blossoms after the rain… wearing short sleeves for the first time in months… tasting first strawberries… the chestnut trees coming into bloom overnight, as if someone had orchestrated this breathtaking transformation by magic—these are the details that conjure the exuberance of spring for me.

For the past few years I have been living in places where spring is a mildly unpleasant transition between the dreary winter and the scorchingly hot summer. It has been a consolation that some fragrances have never failed to afford me a glimpse of the idyllic spring—blue skies with a few wispy clouds, tree branches dotted with sticky buds, rain drops on apple blossoms, and elation caused by the seemingly trivial things. Seasonality when it comes to perfume is an issue of few rules and many subjective viewpoints, but smelling the acacia trees jeweled with the delicate clusters of white blossoms makes me wish for a fragrance that captures the intoxicating scent marrying orange blossom, jasmine and a hint of coconut. If one cannot have an ideal spring, then one can search for that spring via perfume. …

The quintessential spring flower for me has always been lily of the valley. As soon as the sunny days grew more numerous, the throngs of elderly women from the countryside would appear near the metro stations. For a few pennies, one would get a pleasure of glimpsing into the basket lined with the old “Pravda” newspapers and picking out a tiny bunch of fragrant white flowers delicately wrapped in shiny green leaves. Guerlain Muguet and Christian Dior Diorissimo are the closest means I have in terms of reviving the memory of pressing the porcelain white bells into my face.

Diorissimo is the lily of the valley perfection, a fragrance that in the words of its creator, Edmond Roudnitska, “is a pure lily-of-the-valley scent that also has the odor of the woods in which it is found and the indefinable atmosphere of the springtime.” The lily of the valley of Guerlain Muguet is gently underscored with the green and woody notes, and while it reminds me of Diorissimo, it is sweeter and softer. It beautifully manages to recreate the fragrance of the flowers and to achieve a gentle balance between the photorealism and the artistic exaggeration. Caron Muguet du Bonheur, another classical lily of the valley soliflore, treats the flower in the creamier manner, with the result that its delicacy becomes compromised.

Parfums De Nicolaï Odalisque is probably one of the least conventional lily of the valley stories. The graceful green floral note is intriguingly framed with the softness of iris and the warmth of patchouli, the combination of which lends an effect that is both nostalgically vintage and remarkably innovative. A breath of lily of the valley can also be incorporated into compositions that provide a less obvious tribute to its beautiful qualities. Thus, Guerlain Chamade and Parure weave its delicate trace into their heart accords, allowing lily of the valley to freshen and uplift the hyacinth-cassis richness in the former and the plum-rose in the latter. Hermès Eau des Merveilles attains a gentle fragility by wrapping a whisper of lily of the valley and hyacinth around the salty amber. In another floral-ambery pairing, the duality of Cacharel Anais Anais is driven by the lily of the valley toned white floral heart and the wood ornamented ambery base. Ormonde Jayne Sampaquita’s transparent heart is inlaid with the green sweetness of lily of the valley, while in the dark tapestry of Caron French Cancan, it serves as a vivid splash of aquamarine. Lily of the valley is a fresh accent in Chanel No. 19, a lucid touch in Jean Patou L’Heure Attendue, and an unexpected sparkle in Ormonde Jayne Tolu. A gentle fresh breath of spring, it never seems to be out of place.

To recall all of the beautiful accords incorporating lily of the valley is impossible, and yet stopping here makes the list seem incomplete. Here are some additional favourites incorporating this fragile spring flower:

Acaciosa by Caron
Antilope by Weil
Aqua Allegoria Herba Fresca by Guerlain
Be Delicious by Donna Karan
Capricci by Nina Ricci
Climat by Lancôme
Début by DelRae
Eclipse by Parfums De Nicolaï
Envy by Gucci
Helmut Lang EDC and EDP
Lauren by Ralph Lauren
Le Jasmin by Annick Goutal
Le Muguet de Rosine by Les Parfums de Rosine
Miss Dior by Christian Dior
Miss Worth by Worth
Muguet des Bois by Coty
Muguet by Slatkin
Tiare by Chantecaille

If you have your favourite lily of the valley fragrances, please mention them.

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38 Comments

  • Cheezwiz: Thank you for posting such a comprehensive list of perfumes containing Lily of the Valley. Very appropriate since I understand in many European countries, it is tradition to give LotV bouquets as gifts at the beginning of May.

    LotV IS Spring to me! I am a total sucker for this floral note in fragrances (a close tie with orange blossom).

    Two of the nicest LotV scents I have tried are both Dior: Diorissimo and a limited edition scent they produced last year called Lily Dior. Both are gorgeous.

    I had no idea Guerlain produced a muguet fragrance – I’ve never seen it anywhere. I do have the Acqua Allegoria Lillia Bella which is one of my favorites for spring. May 2, 2006 at 4:12am Reply

  • Sisonne: Dear V, I think Annick Goutal had a limited fragrance in their soliflore line called “Muguet”. I smelled it once or twice & really liked it, but didn´t purchase it. Now I regret it, but I think even the Gutal boutiques in Paris doesn´t carry it anymore… May 2, 2006 at 7:15am Reply

  • Robin: V, did not know that Rosine had a muguet…is it still made? And is it worth trying? May 2, 2006 at 7:29am Reply

  • Rafael: Hi V,
    It’s nice to read a review about perfumes containing the LotV accord. For me, it’s one of my favourites, together with hyacinth, so I’m very much looking forward to Part 2!
    It’s funny that, since it’s not possible to obtain the LotV oil from nature, all what we smell in all these marvellous compositions was recreated by the expert noses of perfumers with both natural and synthetic raw materials. Some say Roudnitska himself had a bunch of LotVs planted in his backyard when working on Diorissimo!
    I guess it would be worth commenting some of the great chemicals that make up the marvellous LotV accords we have around, from the classic hydroxycitronellal, the in-the-alergenic-spotlight lyral and lilial, to some of the new ones like Muguesia or Mayol.

    Best regards, R. May 2, 2006 at 9:30am Reply

  • Marina: What a beautiful post. The piece about about LOTV in “the basket lined with the old “Pravda” newspapers” brought tears to my eyes. I remember that too and it makes me so sad somehow. But in a good way 🙂 May 2, 2006 at 10:15am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Cheezwiz, Dior Lily was very pretty, and I think that while it is discontinued, it can still be found. I might have to repurchase a bottle one of these days. The same perfumer who did Dior Lily, Florence Idier, is great with lily and lily of the valley accords. She also did Comme des Garcons Lily.

    Guerlain Muguet was a limited edition in 1998, but now it is being released again at their Paris boutique. I am sure that it will make its way to Bergdorf Goodman soon enough. It is the only other fragrance I can imagine rivalring Diorissimo. May 2, 2006 at 11:52am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: C, nice to see you again! Yes, Annick Goutal Le Muguet was very nice, and although I love the lily of the valley note in Le Jasmin, it is, of course, not a focus of that composition. I wish they brought it back. May 2, 2006 at 11:54am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, Muguet de Rosine is discontinued, but I see it on some sites from time to time. It is an interesting composition that seems to be heavier on linden than lily of the valley. Not a top favourite as far as this note goes (and as far as Rosines go, for that matter), but worth seeking out a sample. May 2, 2006 at 11:56am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, Muguet de Rosine is discontinued, but I see it on some sites from time to time. It is an interesting composition that seems to be heavier on linden than lily of the valley. Not a top favourite as far as this note goes (and as far as Rosines go, for that matter), but worth seeking out a sample. May 2, 2006 at 11:58am Reply

  • paru: What a beautiful post. I enjoy spring very much but agree that it often becomes a sudden change between a cold winter and sweltering summer. I’m lucky to enjoy it in Canada this year where the progression is much more gradual. I’m struggling to think if there’s one particular smell that really signals spring for me. I think you described it best when you mentionned the “delicate scent of wet foliage and rain drenched earth.” For me, that is spring. May 2, 2006 at 12:01pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Rafael, an explanation of lily of the valley aroma-materials would be most appropriate! I was hoping to write a full article one of these days, describing different materials and listing fragrances that incorporate them. Once I get started, I want to present a full overview. However, I will try to give a brief overview when writing about hyacinth, another plant that is not willing to give away its fragrance. May 2, 2006 at 12:07pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Marina, when I go back to Eastern Europe, the sight of the elderly women selling all sorts of things near the metro stations makes me want to buy whatever they sell. Many are so old and frail. I remember a lady who looked like my late grandmother selling wilting bunches of jasmine (our zhasmin, which is really mock orange). Of course, nobody would buy them from her. To this day, her happy face when I said that I would take them all is such a sweet memory.

    On another topic, do you remember flowers that were called “son-trava”? They were purple and as if dressed in silvery fur. How I love them! In the spring, we would even go to pick them from the woods. May 2, 2006 at 12:18pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: P, I can think of a few places where the spring is what I remember it to be. It is the spring that Letivan, Russian 19th painter, captures well:
    http://abcgallery.com/L/levitan/levitan.html

    And yes, the wet foliage and raindrenched earth are the best spring smells! Which is why I love tulips. Hyacinths are also high on my list. May 2, 2006 at 12:41pm Reply

  • violetnoir: Diorissimo represents the most beautiful aspects of lily of the valley. It was my grandmother’s favorite fragrance, and every time I smell it, it makes me a little bit wistful, a little bit sad, and a little bit joyful. I identify it so much with her, that I will never wear it. Isn’t that strange?

    Hugs! May 2, 2006 at 1:05pm Reply

  • Katie: My hands down fave is iPdF’s Mughetto di Primavera – though it appears it may be discontiued? Such a pity, because it’s one of my husbands faves on me as well. It’s very clear, very uncomplicated, and so tenderly fresh. I have encountered nothing quite as garden fresh as this one.

    Another, which is really more lily is EL’s Dazzling Silver. I don’t think lotv is one of the “official” notes, but when I wear it in the heat of the humid summer days, I get the distinct impression of lily AND lotv from it, along with a funny rose note. May 2, 2006 at 3:49pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R (violetnoir), there are some fragrances that would fall into that category for me. They are linked so tightly in memory with a person who wore that I feel unable to wear them. May 2, 2006 at 5:26pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Katie, I have never tried Mughetto di Primavera, and I have not seen it around in a long time. I would not be surprised if it were discontinued.

    Your mention of Dazzling Silver reminded of a metallic lily of the valley I like–Gucci Envy. A very interesting composition! May 2, 2006 at 5:28pm Reply

  • Cheezwiz: Gucci Envy is gorgeous – it is a bit odd and metallic upon first application, but then dries down to a soft fragrance. I believe it has BOTH LotV and hyacinth in it, which are two notes I’m very fond of.

    I’d love to see a review on this one – I find it very elegant – not too perfumey or floral. A less expensive smell-alike is Banana Republic’s “W” for Women. May 2, 2006 at 9:09pm Reply

  • sara: Thanks for such a lovely article. My favorite LOTV fragrance is Koto–a soft, slightly smoky LOTV-based chypre–it’s a Japan-only release by Shiseido.

    Sara May 3, 2006 at 9:40am Reply

  • paradise: i came upon gucci envy last year and i was surpised how much it appealed to me. i agree, it’s a bit sharp, metallic at first but it dries down well. it smells young and fresh.

    dorissimo is my mum’s signature perfume and whenever i smell it, i get sort of teary-eyed and nostalgic, especially when i’m living far away somewhere i begin to miss her immediately.

    victoria, i love your posts not only for the informative content but the beautiful style of writting. it’s like reading a story. gorgeous. May 3, 2006 at 1:59pm Reply

  • Tara: I have a bottle of the discontinued Mugued de Rosine – I quite like it, as well as the LE Dior Lily. I haven’t smelled it yet, but BF has in his bag a bottle of the newly reissued Guerlain Muguet. They only sold it for 1 day (4/29) last month, and only 190 bottles were available. All of them were pre-sold and you had to reserve in advance. I feel lucky to have gotten one and am very much looking forward to sniffing it when BF gets home Sunday night. May 3, 2006 at 4:35pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Cheezwiz, I was actually writing a review of Envy for today, but I got caught up with other work, therefore it shall be posted tomorrow. It might serve as a nice segue into hyacinth.

    I have not tried Banana Republic’s “W” for Women, but I will the next time I am near BN. May 3, 2006 at 4:49pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Sara, Koto sounds very exciting! A number of Japan-only releases I have tried were quite interesting. I am looking forward to exploring more of them. May 3, 2006 at 4:50pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Paradise, thank you for a nice compliment! Writing is one of my outlets. When my Japanese was still good enough for me to read The Pillow Book in the original, I came across by the quote that praised writing for its ability to remove sadness. I cannot find this quote now, but it struck as wonderfully beautiful. Another reference to writing as freezing time is in Bunin’s works. Scents can preserve memory as well, therefore I always find it interesting to fuse these passions of mine. May 3, 2006 at 5:01pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tara, please post your thoughts! I saw the bottle of Muguet, which is lovely–the same Louis XVI style that was used for Aprés l’Ondée. Mine comes in a different vintage style, and the fragrance is quite beautiful. May 3, 2006 at 5:03pm Reply

  • Madelyn E: Dear Victoria,
    Happy belated Fete du Muguet ! Everyday I read an exerpt from Bois de Jasmine and Victoria’s Own — is a fete for me. In honor of Fete Du Muguet – I have resurected my spray of Christian Dior :Diorissimo – I’ve been wearing it all week ! It is a sunshine fragrance – almost an anti-depressant – in a bottle ! I always feel revitalized when I wear it – and usually enjoy a steady stream of “Oh you smell great! What are you wearing.. Diorissi—What ! Anyway- it is the most perfect lilly of the valley composition- albeit a classic . Thank you dear Vic – for your lovely review`! Springtime greetings to you and your readers!
    Love–Madelyn E May 3, 2006 at 5:28pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Madelyn, what a great idea to wear a lily of the valley fragrance for the first week of May. Diorissimo is incomparable! It has been my mother’s signature fragrance when I was a child, but it took me some time to be able to wear it myself. Now, my mother would not wear it anymore, but I do and with great pleasure. May 3, 2006 at 8:31pm Reply

  • koneko: Hello dear V!
    I am staying with my parents for a year, and hadn’t realized what a lovely garden they have. I got home from work today, very tired, and was greeted with a most lovely smell. I looked around, and noticed these darling little bell-shaped flowers… lily of the valley, all in full bloom! I just read your lily of the valley post last night, and thought, I need to find some real lily of the valley, as I don’t remember the last time I’ve smelled fresh blossoms. And it was literally right under my nose! =) I just had to share this with you. I was very excited, and am extra excited to try some of the fragrances you mentioned! May 4, 2006 at 7:24pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: M, what a wonderful coincidence! I love the delicate look of lily of the valley, not to mention its wonderful fragrance. They are also blooming around my parents’ house right now, and my mother said that it is such a pleasure to have windows open and inhale their aroma. May 4, 2006 at 9:15pm Reply

  • Evyan: Diorissimo is one of my favorite florals also. As for others, may I suggest Crabtree & Evelyn’s Lily of the Valley–another “dead-ringer”, I think. Have you ever tried Coty’s
    Muguet des Bois–a big trend-setter for quite sometime after being released, and yes, you can still find it (Amerimark.com has it, for instance). I also have and enjoy Muguet du Bonheur.

    Evyan May 7, 2006 at 2:41pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Evyan, I have not tried Crabtree & Evelyn’s Lily of the Valley, but I am adding it to my list of fragrances to try. As for Muguet des Bois, I also very much enjoy it. Even the creator of Diorissimo, Edmond Roudnitska, praised it as a remarkable composition. May 8, 2006 at 12:57am Reply

  • Tara: I received my Guerlain Muguet last night with joy – it is truly the most wonderful muguet I have ever smelled. Sadly I was not expecting such a small bottle – I shall have to ration it carefully! It was such a fresh, true lily of the valley scent, I was sniffing my wrist all evening. May 8, 2006 at 6:50pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tara, oh, I am so glad to hear that you are enjoying it. It is definitely a beautiful lily of the valley fragrance. The bottle is rather small, although in my case that hardly matters. I have never used up a full bottle of perfume. May 8, 2006 at 7:54pm Reply

  • Chris: English company Penhaligan has a terrific Lily of the Valley fragrance. We have a store here in ORange County Ca. at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. May 17, 2006 at 5:32pm Reply

  • Mary Lou Thurmer: Hi V, this site is very much appreciated by myself as it is so good to know others have been on the search for the lily of the valley fragrances.
    For a long time I have been searching for Caron’s le Muguet du Bonheur without any success. Caron was merged with the Ales Group by Patrick Ales several years ago and they are based in New York and Paris. I have left several messages at the at the Ales Group office in New York, with no response.
    le Muguet du Bonheur is comprised of lilyv,jasmine and rose and when I wore it there were no limits to lovliness and the feeling of well being.
    It comes in a crystal bottle
    w/stopper. If you can locate a specialty store or perfumery
    that carries it, please e-mail
    me. Thanks much in advance. MLT
    retailer or a perfumery, please June 29, 2006 at 3:16pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Mary Lou, Caron boutique in New York still sells Muguet du Bonheur, in the EDT as well as the extrait (in the crystal bottle). 675 Madison Ave, New York, 10021 – (212) 319-4888 June 29, 2006 at 4:13pm Reply

  • Marilyn: Jessica McClintock has a deep Lily of the Valley base with herbal and woodsy notes. August 9, 2007 at 12:24pm Reply

  • Gina: Hello,
    I have a question. I found a bottle of Le muguet by Annick Goutal. In box, sealed.The box and seal are yellowed. Do you think the fragrance is still intact? Or is it possible it is spoiled. Thank you,
    Gina September 14, 2007 at 4:12pm Reply

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